The Looming Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter IV - Race in the Caverns

The gaping cavern thrummed constantly, the sound rumbling and bouncing off the walls, passing out of one great cave and into the next, making it seem like the earth was uttering one long, dissatisfied grumble. In truth, however, the Gorons were racing.

A train of boulders of assorted sizes rolled through the maze-work of tunnels that made up the Goron city. The tunnels were big enough to fit a horse and wagon, but in some cases the boulders only just slid through as they rolled on, as if it was they that had formed the shapes of the tunnels on their course through the living stone. The boulders, however, were closer to living stone than anything else in Hyrule. They were the Gorons themselves.

The fact that the boulders were not ordinary would have become obvious to the patient observer as they seemed to be able to roll up inclines that were too steep for them. One might blink in wonder, but so fast were the Gorons as they raced through caverns, over subterranean chasms, up natural ramps and through forests of stalagmites that to blink was to miss the whole race. It was at the end of the final incline that the assorted train of rocks all threw themselves off the edge of a gaping chasm far enough across to stretch ten men, and fell with practiced accuracy onto the subsequent decline, slowing down only when they rolled into the room designated for the end of the race—a room in the shape of a gigantic shallow bowl, ridged with the strata of countless races, ground smooth by countless stony backs.

The first to enter the circular finish room was one of the larger Gorons. He rolled around the edge of the room, tightening his orbit each time, until finally he dropped through the hole waiting for him in the center, landing some fifty feet below with an impact that made the earth shrug. When the large Goron unrolled he became an impressive giant—almost nine feet tall, his bulk of his torso contrasted by comparatively short, yet well-muscled legs, arms long and strong like an ape’s, and a wide, flat face rimmed with tufts of straight, wiry hair as brown as his skin, both of which camouflaged him well against the surrounding rock. His brown body and hair were wet with perspiration, making him look like a large, exquisitely carved, glossy sculpture. This was Gor Daruni, the chief of the Gorons and the champion of the Goron races.

No sooner had Gor Daruni landed than all of the other racers came falling down after him. The next to fall after the champion was a Goron almost as large as Daruni himself. Daruni deftly caught the massive living boulder and launched him away, hurtling him into the wall of the stone chamber, where the Goron rebounded harmlessly. Immediately following, in third place, was a very small Goron who was also rebuffed by Daruni with the stony knuckles of one thick fist. Gor Daruni resisted all of his competitors, batting away the smaller ones, catching and throwing those that were larger, even using some to deflect others who came quickly after. When they were all through the hole in the ceiling the floor of the cavern was whirling with rolling Gorons, grinding the floor in crisscrossing patterns, weaving deftly in and out of each other. Then Daruni bellowed triumphantly, beating his chest with his massive rock-fists. One by one the other racers responded with their own grunts and growls, unfolding and beating their chests like drums.

Gor Daruni’s victory shout echoed up to the stone balconies overlooking the cavern where all the other Gorons cheered for their champion, the sound vibrating through the walls of the stone hall as if the whole earth were quaking in jubilation. And the quaking was followed by the boom of stony hands on stretched leather as the spectators began to play on true drums. And then the Goron racers began to dance—and such liveliness and energy none could ever attribute to dead stone! But here were the Gorons, living statues, stamping their feet, throwing up their hands and clapping, shouting and drumming on their chests and legs and round bellies, laughing and cheering. Even Medigoro was there, his huge head nodding to the beat.

Medigoro was the second oldest Goron in the city and had grown so huge that he could only fit his head into the Goron caves. He got around by traveling through special tunnels which had been excavated from the surface. Medigoro had joined his brothers at the end of the race to witness Daruni’s victory, but he quickly had to return to his work making ‘knives,’ which were, in reality, swords as tall as men. It took him many years to craft one ‘knife,’ and so he set aside little time for anything else. After some time watching the racers dance, Medigoro grunted to his brothers, clapped his hands twice to show he had enjoyed himself (knocking some of the smaller Gorons to the ground with the shockwave) then turned and rolled away through his tunnel, back to his furnace and bellows.

When the dancing was over, the other Gorons all rolled back to their caves, tired and joyful. Only a dozen or so Gorons lingered.

* * *

“You gave a good race, Darmon,” said Gor Daruni heartily as he smacked the back of the Goron who took second place. “You gave me very little chance to catch you this time.”

“I am not as young as you, Daruni, and I am getting stiff in the joints,” said Gor Darmon, stretching his stony back with the sound of shifting rocks. “I could beat you when you were as old as Garnus, there. Oi, Garnus, good race!” he bellowed, beating his chest toward the small Goron who took third. Garnus beat his chest at Darmon and smiled in response. Garnus had been speaking to a few other Gorons, all of whom were bigger than he. They treated Garnus with visible respect.

“I remember those days well, brother,” said Daruni, grinning. It was custom for the Gorons to call each other ‘brother’ even though there were certainly fathers and sons, uncles and nephews. It was perplexing to most other races how the Gorons continued, seemingly without a female of the species. The stony people were as much flesh and blood as rock, to be sure. They consumed minerals, certainly, which explained why deposits of minerals grew out of their backs and arms and hands. As time passed Gorons would become old, aging visibly and eventually they would die. New Gorons would appear, young and vibrant, and eventually they would grow up. But no one knew where the young Gorons came from, or why they designated themselves as fathers and sons. It didn’t seem to concern the Gorons, in any case. Whatever they were, they all thought of each other as brothers, and cared for their tribe as much as any family.

Daruni and Darmon took advantage of the walk back to their caves, the time it took to roll there being miniscule by comparison. As the joyfulness of the celebration dissipated, Daruni’s face grew more serious. “Has your grandson chosen who will lead him into the crater when he comes of age?” Daruni asked.

“No,” said Darmon. “It has been so long since his father went into the fires of the mountain to contain the dragon Volvagia. Garnus never realized why his father didn’t come back. I have wondered how to tell him the truth, but I can never find the right moment. He still thinks of his father as the great Goron hero who defeated the dragon.”

“This is why he retains his father’s hammer…” said Daruni.

“Yes. It is all the young one has. He keeps it in the hope that his father will come back to reclaim it some day. He looks forward to a time of great need for our people. He tells me of the Sheikah prophets who say that a hero will be chosen to fight the great evil. He thinks it will be his father, returned from his adventures.”

“Does Garnus know it will be a child who fulfills the prophecy?” Daruni asked.

“No, Daruni, only we Sages know of those things, and I have only been permitted to share them with you because you are our chief. I have not told my grandson, even as close as we are.”

“You are the closest thing he has to a father, Darmon.”

“I know,” Gor Darmon replied. They walked silently for some time. The spectator’s path wound up and around the track, through a wide cavern into which spilled a cascading streamlet of lava, lending warmth and a moody red hue to the chamber. Gorons are highly tolerant of heat due to their thick skins and rocky exteriors. It was for this reason that they were able to utilize the lava that flowed naturally through the mountain for light and heat, as the mountain was actually an active volcano. Beside the lava stream they walked, a pair of waddling statues, between the stalagmites that jutted out of the cavern floor like tall pointed teeth.

Daruni spoke. “Darmon, I have been thinking about Garnus’ place in the tribe…”

“Yes, brother,” said Darmon, respectfully. Though Gor Darmon was the older of the two he treated Gor Daruni with deference when it came to matters of the tribe.

“The tribe thinks much of him. They look to him as someone destined to be great among us. It may be best to take away his father’s hammer.”

“But Daruni,” said Darmon, not defiant, but curious, “it was you who gave it to him, you delved into the crater to search for his father, you who retrieved the hammer when our hero could not be found. It was you who gave the tribe hope when you told us that our brave brother had vanquished the mighty dragon. Garnus holds to that hammer in remembrance of hope.”

“I know, Darmon, but his hope is in a father that will never return…” Gor Darmon was quiet. His face showed the conflict within as he waddled alongside his younger ‘brother.’

“Yes, Daruni, I see. It may be better to take the hammer from him.” Darmon’s small black eyes peered into the red light.

“I will keep it safe, Darmon, you have no need to fear for that.”

“It is not that, Daruni, you know I trust you…”

“Then what is it, brother?”

Darmon shook his wide head. “Nothing, brother, nothing…I just wonder who he will choose to take him into the crater…”

Now Daruni was silent. Then he said, “I would not want to replace you, Darmon. You know I simply wish your grandson to find his own hope; a firm hope.”

“Yes, Daruni, you are wise.” Then Gor Darmon chuckled, sounding like sliding gravel. Gor Daruni stopped, thinking Darmon was laughing at him. “I am sorry, I am sorry, brother,” said Darmon quickly. “I simply thought of one who Garnus could not choose.”

“Who is that, brother?”

Medigoro.” And they both laughed like a grumbling landslide.

* * *

By the time the ‘brothers’ neared the center of the Goron city the quality of the light had changed. The lava flow had drained into a hole in the wall to light and heat some other part of the Goron city, and before them the wall was lit by a cooler, crystalline red. As they rounded a corner, the red glow crept around the stalagmites to greet them. When the city came into full view the source of the light became clear: a ruby the size of a man's fist was set in a hole the ceiling through which all of the main cavern’s light was filtered. The light came from a long shaft cut into the rock which opened out high above the clouds at the peak of the mountain.

The ruby lit an enormous spherical chamber. Landings ribbed the chamber, each cut into the rock face, accessible by ramps that threaded out of the chamber and back in at lower or higher levels. On each level there were varying sizes of caves hewn, some of which had small gardens of the ‘Goron special crop,’ a bulb-like plant aptly named the “bomb flower.” The single flower of the plant was connected to seeds within the bulb that would become volatile if disconnected from one another. The resulting chemical reaction gave one only a few seconds before the bulb exploded. The Gorons used these plants to speed their mining operations and were naturally kept only in small batches as a field of them would prove impractically hazardous.

Gor Daruni paused at the entrance to the main cavern. “The Stone shines brightly today, doesn’t it, Darmon?” he said.

“Yes, very bright, brother,” Darmon replied, admiring the ruby. Then he grew thoughtful. “Daruni?” he said.

“Yes, brother.”

It has been nearly ten years since I placed that gem. Do you suppose the prophecies will prove true soon?”

“I do not know brother,” replied Gor Daruni. “But Din will protect us when the time comes. We need not worry.” The report of distant explosions echoed into the cavern. Daruni rolled his small eyes. “That will be Garnus being careless around my garden again.”

“Go easy on him, Daruni,” said Gor Darmon, grinning widely. “He only wants to congratulate you.”

“I’ll gladly take third place myself if he can keep from setting off my flowers. It’s a good thing they grow back so quickly.” And with that Gor Daruni curled up and was rolling down from one landing to the next, passing curious Gorons who had come out to see what was happening. In moments Daruni was at the base of the chamber, entering the tunnel that led to his cave.

Darmon looked up to the ruby again when the Goron chief was gone. “Perhaps you are right, brother. May Din protect us.” As Darmon turned toward his cave, a younger Goron rolled up to him from one of the tunnels that led to the surface.

“Brother Darmon,” the young Goron said, unfolding, “there is a man outside waiting to see Gor Daruni. I didn’t let him in. He said the Dongo Caves have been blocked by boulders.”

Gor Darmon’s wide mouth hung open for a moment. The mines in the Dongo Caves were the Goron’s main source of food. They would not be able to survive for long without access to them.

“Who is it?” Darmon asked.

The young Goron’s eyes widened meaningfully. “He says he is the Lord of the Gerudo.”

* * *

As night fell on Koroki Forest, a chilled breeze whistled past the tree-house of a young green-clad boy. At first the child seemed to sleep soundly. Then he shivered in his swinging cot, tossed and slipped back into uneven dreams. A dark cloud crept over the forest. By morning events would be set in motion that would spell irrevocable change for the Koroki and doom for the guardian tree they called ‘Father.’



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